Wednesday, December 27, 2006
Be sure to check back soon for more stimulating discussion in defense of Christian theocratic monarchy & American imperialism! Good night, and may God bless America.
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
Back in February, I quoted Lord Eustace Percy of Newcastle on how democratic systems are unable to provide for the orderly succession of power. It is supposed that because no violence occurs during the transition between political administrations that the succession has been orderly somehow. However, democracy relies upon political usurpation as the basic mechanism to solve all political problems. “Throw the bums out!” And if the new establishment doesn’t solve our problems, throw them out too.
This perverse arrangement gives rise to an irresponsible politician class, unused and unequipped to rule for the long term. Politicians count on being able to use the political cycle to their advantage. When the opposition party is in power, it can be blamed for everything that goes wrong. When in power themselves, they focus on how bad things would be if the other party were in charge.
As Hans-Hermann Hoppe says,
…the selection of government rulers by means of popular elections makes it nearly impossible that a good or harmless person could ever rise to the top. Prime ministers and presidents are selected for their proven efficiency as morally uninhibited demagogues. Thus, democracy virtually assures that only bad and dangerous men will ever rise to the top of government. Indeed, as a result of free political competition and selection, those who rise will become increasingly bad and dangerous individuals…While overstating things a bit, Hoppe is correct because politicians always have an interest in undermining the genuine successes of the opposition (like the overthrow of Saddam). Their motivation is to get their own people into power, because generally committed to the ideological principles of their party, they believe themselves to be the best guardians of the public trust. Government is oriented away from the exercise of judgment toward the acquisition and retention of power. Long-term policy goals are derailed for the sake of short-term political gain.
As things have turned out, the two political parties in America actually do very little to advance their principles in the concrete. In order to generate the votes needed to win, both sides appeal to basic motivations which are more felt than understood in the broader population. Republicans appeal to the primal loyalty and defensiveness Americans feel for their country, a kind of thoughtless, it's our team, pro-military attitude. Democrats appeal to other base instincts: envy and fear. Envy of the rich, male, or Caucasian oppressors of the “disenfranchised” is the primary Democratic impulse. They also appeal to fear: fear of what would happen if the religious right ever got its way.
Both Republicans and Democrats use fear tactics, but the primary motivations that drive their constituents are very different indeed. Love of country and envy, both elemental forces, are not of equal value. One is wholly bad, the other good. The desire for national prestige and security is a decent and wholesome desire. Envy can never be justified.
And so, America is governed by the interplay and alternation between the party of jingoism and the party of envy. The trajectory of society is directed (downward?) toward absolute equality and moral lawlessness by liberalism only to be tempered by a reacting patriotic conservatism. The result of this dialectic can only be incoherent policy, moral chaos and social disaster.
The problem with our system is not and never has been “politicians.” It is the system itself that is the problem. Democracy is bad, not because people's interests are represented--No taxation without representation!--but because there is no one actually responsible to guide long-term policy. Our much lauded system of checks and balances & separation of powers yada-yada renders rudderless leadership on every issue except the most visceral ( i.e., envy & patriotism). It's amazing how libertarians/conservatives actually praise our government for being inefficient. Don't they know that inefficient = costly & unprincipled?
The buck has to stop somewhere. St. Thomas explains the principle very well:
We must of necessity say that the world is governed by one. For since the end of the government of the world is that which is essentially good, which is the greatest good; the government of the world must be the best kind of government. Now the best government is the government by one. The reason of this is that government is nothing but the directing of the things governed to the end; which consists in some good. But unity belongs to the idea of goodness, as Boethius proves (De Consol. iii, 11) from this, that, as all things desire good, so do they desire unity; without which they would cease to exist. For a thing so far exists as it is one. Whence we observe that things resist division, as far as they can; and the dissolution of a thing arises from defect therein. Therefore the intention of a ruler over a multitude is unity, or peace. Now the proper cause of unity is one. For it is clear that several cannot be the causeAccording to the law of nature, there should be one ruler. Democracy is unnatural, corrupt, and aimless. And until the American people are governed by a righteous leader who is not afraid to tell them what is just according to God's law, they will never choose the right.
of unity or concord, except so far as they are united. Furthermore, what is one in itself is a more apt and a better cause of unity than several things united. Therefore a multitude is better governed by one than by several. From this it follows that the government of the world, being the best form of government, must be by one. This is expressed by the Philosopher (Metaph. xii, Did. xi, 10): “Things refuse to be ill governed; and multiplicity of authorities is a bad thing, therefore there should be one ruler.”
Summa Theologica, 103
Saturday, November 04, 2006
The message of Hebrews is that what Jesus accomplished on earth and continues to do in heaven has metaphysical ramifications for the life of the world. That is, the underlying basis for God’s relationship to the world has been transformed. Nothing would ever be the same once Jesus came bringing a new covenant, a new commandment, and a new life. There can be no return to the pre-Incarnation phase of history.
Jesus offered a real sacrifice, which was his life of complete submission to the Father’s will. He has been endowed with an actual high priestly office, of a royal-sacerdotal order, exemplified in the priest-king Melchizedek. He ascended in a real resurrected body to a real place, the heavenly Mount Zion. He sits on a real throne in the midst of all the angels and saints. He actually rules and intercedes for the world authoritatively, providentially, and spiritually as Lord and Christ.
Hebrews begins with the assertion of Jesus’ divine origin, the high place from which he came (chapter 1). It goes on to describe the true meaning of his descent to the lower earthly regions (Cf. Eph. 4:8-10). The second pericope (2:5-3:6) is concerned with explaining the necessity for why Christ came in the flesh to live and die. By contrasting prophecies of Christ with the angels in the first section of the book (1:5-14), the author demonstrated that Jesus shared an equality with God that was fully realized (in a sense) at his resurrection-ascension (Cf. Phil. 2:6ff.).
The Son of God became man. The author of Hebrews is concerned with establishing Jesus’ solidarity with his people, the redeemed humanity. Here we find a compelling parallel in the great Kenotic passage, Philippians 2:6-11, where the Son emptied himself of his divine glory in order to become the humble servant of God at the Incarnation. His humble service involved representing humanity through divinely inflicted suffering and judgment. By passing through this trial, the man Jesus achieved a perfection that was graced by the endowment of royal glory. While Jesus was always fully God and fully man due to the hypostatic union, Scripture teaches that it was at his resurrection-ascension that his humanity was glorified, that is, completely and permanently suffused with divine glory.
The third doctrinal pericope (4:16-5:10) contrasts the superiority of Jesus’ accomplished deliverance to that of Joshua. Joshua’s accomplishment was only as good as its priestly foundation (the Tabernacle liturgy). The greater deliverance is rooted in Jesus’ high priestly work (4:14).
The fourth and largest section of the book (6:13-10:18), demonstrates that Jesus’ royal-priestly office and sacrifice are the essence of a new covenant. The establishment of this covenant was guaranteed beforehand by God, being based upon better promises that were confirmed by a divine oath (7:20-22; C.f., Ps. 110:4). The inherently efficacious ministry of Jesus Christ actually accomplishes and bestows the blessings of the new covenant that had been prophesied by Jeremiah long ago (10:14-18; C.f., Jer. 31:31-34).
The fifth and final pericope (chapter 11) describes the solidarity of faith that New Testament believers have with the Old Testament saints. However, while the OT saints did not formerly receive the Kingdom under the provisions of the old covenant, they have now been blessed together with us. Hebrews 12:18-24 makes clear that the city sought (but not attained) by the OT saints has been established. It exists. This is the fruit of the royal-priestly work of Jesus, the foundation of the newer and better covenant. The epistle concludes with direction on how to live in light of this already present (through faith) and coming reality.
Studying how Hebrews interprets the Old Testament gives rise to what I call a hermeneutic of covenantal realism, as opposed to one that spiritualizes away the content of prophetic expectation.
A covenant is a solemn commitment divinely sanctioned (by blessings and curses), testified to by witnesses, and enacted by swearing an oath. A covenant defines the responsibilities one undertakes when entering into a sacred bond.
Tuesday, October 31, 2006
I'm still pondering these incisive remarks that Steyn made during the discussion:
"The chief characteristic of our age is deferred adulthood."
"What's the point of creating the perfect society if it's only for one generation?"
"I think the Europeans got so good at enjoying their freedoms, they came to loathe and despise those who still understand that there are times you have to fight for them. That's not just a European thing, by the way, I think it's also present in the American left to a degree."
"I say in the book at one point that the inflation of America as this kind of grand demon is almost inversely proportional to its actual threat to anybody. It isn't a conventionally expansionist hyperpower. Even benign ones like Britain-- if a royal navy warship turned up off the coast of your capital city in the 19th Century, it generally meant they had plans to run the flag up the flag pole and install a governor in your palace. In other words, even the most benign great power was expansionist in those days. With America-- people have simply no reason to fear that America will go around the planet invading countries. I think that's actually part of the problem-- America ought to be invading more countries!"
"So instead, they've inflated [America] into almost an absurd phantom enemy. I think that's what a lot of the environmentalism is all about. That in fact, because America doesn't do what Germany and the Soviet Union and all these other countries did, which is send their troops marching across borders and bombing things, they invented environmentalism to make American passivity the biggest threat to the planet. Just Americans staying at home and eating cheeseburgers and drinking carbonated drinks was using up too many of the planet's resources! I mean , when you think about it, there's no precedent for a power as unthreatening to the planet as the United States is."
Friday, October 27, 2006
[Reprinted by permission from IMPRIMIS, the national speech digest of Hillsdale College, www.hillsdale.edu.]
Read the entire article.
It's a place that cannot last, a way of life that cannot sustain itself. The world works a certain way, and when people stop living according to the-way-things-are, they end up committing suicide. God is not mocked. The mighty will be pulled down from their seat, He will exalt the humble and meek.
In time, this seemingly all-powerful, overwhelming reality will be exposed for what it is: a mere blip on the timeline of the great historical aeons. For a moment John Lennon thought the Beatles were more influential than Jesus Christ, but there will come a time when no one will remember his name.
We are not condemned to live within the limits of this place. "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may show that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." "Who is he that overcomes the world, but he that believes Jesus is the Christ?"
All the fairy tales are true. They are the stories that will be remembered long after the stories of this forlorn day are discarded on the dust heap of history.
There is the chivalrous lesson of 'Jack the Giant Killer'; that giants should be killed because they are gigantic. It is a manly mutiny against pride as such... There is the lesson of 'Cinderella,' which is the same as the Magnificat-exaltavit humiles. There is the great lesson of 'Beauty and the Beast'; that a thing must be loved before it is loveable. There is the terrible allegory of the 'Sleeping Beauty,' which tells how the
human creature was blessed with all birthday gifts, yet cursed with death; and how death also may perhaps be softened to a sleep...
In the fairy tale an incomprehensible happiness rests upon an incomprehensible condition. A box is opened, and all evils fly out. A word is forgotten, and cities perish. A lamp is lit, and love flies away. A flower is plucked, and human lives are forfeited. An apple is eaten, and the hope of God is gone.
--G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
I've written a new article on America's foreign policy & Middle East strategy. Having read a lot of neoconservative literature over the years and being a fellow monarchist, I thought you might be interested in my take on things.
As you know, I work hard to reconcile my monarchist convictions with loyalty to my American heritage. I understand this to be an obligation of Christian charity.
I view America's origins, whether Puritan or Enlightenment as problematic. I'm also not happy with much of what I see today. However, my concern is less about what America used to be--or even what it is now--and more about what she will become.
Remember, yesterday's revolutionaries are today's establishment and
I don't really see the point in constantly berating America's foreign policy. Even Catholic monarchs in the real world (and not in the imagined past) are subject to error. I'm sure that if you were to fairly compare America's virtues and vices with those of any other nation on planet earth, past or present, you'd find America measuring up favorably. Let's have a little perspective shall we?
I think Christian traditionalists of all stripes should be cheering on America's efforts to bring order to the Middle East. This can only result in a transformation of Islam, maybe even its destruction.
Don't be fooled by neoconservative speech rhetoric. What they mean by "democracy" is constitutional government & rule by law that respects human rights and promotes economic prosperity. Neoconservatives are only enamoured of majority rule when the majority hold to traditional values. This is the democracy that G. K. Chesterton wrote about in his masterpiece, Orthodoxy.
There is currently no better alternative available to the Iraqis. I'll take neoconservative "democracy" over Saddam any day. It's too bad more Iraqis don't appreciate the opportunity they've been given.
Eric Langborgh over at the Borg Blog has provided a positive and stimulating challenge to my positions on Iraq and the use of American power. It has been a real pleasure to read his material and chew on his arguments. The purpose of this entry is to engage him on what America should be trying to accomplish in the Middle East in general, and in Iraq in particular.
Although our influence is limited, so it may not matter very much what conclusions we arrive at, perhaps our dialogue may serve to provide clarity to the issues.
Confusion about the Causes of Islamic Discontent
Eric and I differ on the primary cause of Islamic discontent. While I have argued that the spread of Islamic radicalism, or Islamism, is the result of a culture clash between formerly isolated civilizations that now threatens the survival of Muslim culture, Eric believes that American imperialism is the primary culprit. He writes,
[M]uch of the Islamic world’s current response to us has changed in the last fifty or sixty years or so in large part because of the imperialist threat they see from us. We have based our troops on their holy lands and our government has meddled with their own internal affairs... I do agree... that a large part of their response has been cultural, as they see their way of life threatened. But I contend that it is primarily what our government has done that has elicited the hateful response.
Because I am not a liberal (in the classical sense) and/or do not interpret history through a libertarian hermeneutic, I remain unpersuaded by this line of argumentation.
[NOTE: According to my understanding, classical laissez faire liberalism and libertarianism share the following orientations, (which also qualifies them as quasi-anarchist political philosophies):
- Government is the cause or a result of a fall from original innocence, being unnecessary when human beings were able to govern themselves in an original state of freedom.
- Because government itself is tainted by its association with the Fall, the exercise of authority must always be questioned and curtailed. Lord Acton's dictum that "Power tends to corrupt," is a favorite refrain.
- The stability and morality of society is ultimately determined by how well individuals govern themselves. The tendency is to think government is an impediment rather than an aid to virtue (and I think this arises in Christian circles from a faulty view of the Law).
- The essential problem in politics is that of how the individual can free himself from the tyrannical oppression of corrupt government so that he can live virtuously.
Remember, we are talking about primary causes here, not aggravating factors. I will concede that some of America's policies have exasperated things (as our involvement in Iraq seems to have done). The creation of the Israeli state and American interventionism may have precipitated certain responses, but they are not the primary cause of the radicalizing of Islam.
The European colonial powers, world communism, and America have all played at the game of interfering and "meddling" in the affairs of other nations. Why is it that only Muslims have only now resorted to international terrorism as a response? There must be some determining factor other than supposed American imperialism.
President Ahmadi-Nejad's recent statement at the UN that, "By causing war and conflict, some are fast expanding their domination, accumulating greater wealth and usurping all the resources, while others endure the resulting poverty, suffering and misery," is pure "blame America first" claptrap. These sentiments, lifted straight out of the leftist propaganda playbook, attribute nefarious motives to the Bush administration foreign policy.
How one judges the morality of America's actions depends on one's interpretation of America's intentions. There are no brute facts. A large percentage of Muslims have adopted the leftist posture of suspicion toward America, believing the worst about us. Historically, leftists and now Islamists look upon America as the incarnation of exploitive malevolence in the world.
This couldn't be further from the truth. The neoconservatives, who actually believe in democracy (unlike myself), intend to promote freedom (i.e., constitutional government and free market capitalism) as a way to bring prosperity and stability to the developing world. Their goal has not been to impose a foreign culture on the Middle East, but rather to provide Middle Easterners with political and economic mechanisms to enable them to be successful on their own. It has been my opinion that with enough support at home, this project would have a chance of being successful to a degree (though it cannot be the entire solution).
The neoconservatives are persuaded by Thomas Friedman's thesis that radicalism will decrease if economic stagnation is combated in the region. I believe Friedman is correct that any proactive strategy must include an economic aspect, though economics has only limited power to explain human action.
The Islamists have been heartened by our liberal left's opposition to this strategy. They our counting on causing enough murder and mayhem (under the pretense of "freedom fighters") to weaken the American will to carry this thing through. As Ahmadi-Nejad says, "There is no indication that the occupiers have the necessary political will to eliminate the sources of instability."
Furthermore, libertarians and isolationist conservatives have been distracted by thinking that Bush's preemptive strategy somehow tramples on the rights of "sovereign" peoples. If the Islamists didn't think they could work in tandem with liberal (and other) opposition to the war, their prospects for holding out would be much poorer. The Islamists have become adept at playing their enemies off against one another.
Indeed, France is currently discovering that mere opposition to American imperialism does not buy favor with Islamists. An average of 112 cars per day have been torched so far his year, and there is a daily average of 15 attacks on police and emergency services by rioting "youths," as the press calls them, or "spirited youth" as Ahmadi-Nejad calls them.
The Threat of Islam
Eric talks about the complicated nature of our enemy's hatred. I agree, they do not "hate freedom," a euphemism necessitated (?) by political correctness, they want to move into our countries and convert our governments into Islamic regimes. It's called Jihad.
Iraq is a mess. There's no way to deny it. Outright civil war is taking place between Sunnis and Shi'as. (Though I'm suspicious about the accuracy of the media coverage of the "war.") This sectarian violence is distinct from hostilities carried out against our troops, by the way. Perhaps it would have been wiser to leave Saddam in power. Perhaps.
On the other hand, we are seeing that former Baathists have become radicalized since losing power. Whatever their motivation, whether out of genuine idealistic commitment or gaining power, we see that secular Arabs are capable of conversion to Islamism.
As the tensions mounted between Saddam's Iraq and the U.S., Saddam began to position himself as pro-Islamist. Evidence of this is seen in the fact that in 2002 he increased his bounty for suicide bombers from $10,000 to $25,000. The family of each suicide bomber received this sum.
By attempting to acquire yellowcake uranium in Niger, remaining continually uncooperative with the UN inspectors, and defying UN resolution after UN resolution, Saddam positioned his regime to be the prime focus of the U.S.' attention after Afghanistan. Saddam was unfinished business that needed to be taken care of even after the first Gulf War
What should America do now? While it is politically not feasible to bring in the requisite troops needed to restore order, which would be full occupation with rule by martial law, it appears that we need to let the civil war take its natural course (which may be the better option anyway). Our main activity in the Iraqi interior would be to provide "advisors" for the infant Iraqi government. Perhaps our purpose there should now be merely to guard the Iraqi borders, protect the Kurds, and begin figuring out how to deal with Iran and Syria. More War!!!!
American Strategy: Defensive or Pre-emptive?
Eric and I differ on the nature our Middle East strategy should take. I favor taking proactive and pre-emptive measures. Eric favors a reactive strategy. He writes,
...I believe that this is not a war that can be fought with arms, outside of isolated defensive and occasional offensive actions in response to well-defined terrorist threats and actions taken against us.
I can agree that we need to respond to well-defined terrorist threats. However, I think we need to nip some things in the bud before they become imminent threats. And I agree with the underlying neocon intention to address the root of the problem, though I disagree with them on what the whole solution involves (i.e., I don't reduce the whole problem to a struggle between freedom and tyranny).
Realistic or not, Bush's strategy has been to use military force in a limited way in order to clear the way to implement political tolerance (through constitutional government) and economic growth in the region. He has not sought to occupy Iraq fully or permanently, however our opponents care to characterize our mission. Rather, Bush and the neocons were expecting the Iraqi people to respond favorably to this opportunity we provided and were surprised by the magnitude of the resultant insurgency.
They were mistaken.
Oh, well. It may be that a civil war in Iraq will result in a situation more agreeable to stability in the region. And, we can always depose the regime again if we don't like the outcome (I'm being somewhat flippant here). I just do not see any alternative to trying to police the political situation over there.
Bush's Orientation: Dispensational or Neo-conservative?
Eric has voiced a concern that dispensational eschatology is exercising an influence over Bush's policy. He writes,
I believe that dispensational eschatology is overly influencing our foreign policy. It would be nice if actual Christianity would hold that influence. For example, Bush’s refusal to meet with the Iranian president when he was on our own soil was beyond ridiculous and is self-defeating in my mind.
I may be reading into this too much, but is the thought that Bush won't dialogue because Ahmadi-Nejab has called for the dissolution of Israel? If so, this is simply incorrect. There has been no contact between Iran and the U.S. since 1980 (during the hostage crisis).
I know that dispensationalists support the state of Israel and also that they form a significant part of the Christian right. However, support for the nation of Israel does not come from them alone. Presumably, Jewish-Americans favor policies that support Israel. The neoconservatives also support Israel because they view it as their ally in the spread of "freedom & democracy."
Israel should be supported for the following reasons:
- "Palestine" is the ancestral homeland of the Jews. It is their God-given inheritance that they will securely dwell in after their conversion to Christ (NOTE: I am not a premillennialist!). No one else has a stronger claim to that land.
- No other sovereign nation has existed there for the last 2000 years. It has always been dominated by foreign powers.
- The Jews need a homeland for their continued survival. The Holocaust must never happen again.
- It is the only non-Muslim state in the region. (Reason enough!)
One may read Ahmadi-Nejad's 2006 letter to Bush and reports of recent statements he made about Israel's illegitimacy to understand that the Iranian President is not living in the same reality President Bush is. Consider the final words spoken by Ahmadi-Nejad at the UN:
Ahmadi-Nejad is not talking about the return of Jesus Christ here. He's talking about the coming of Muhammad al-Mahdi, the Twelfth Imam, who according to Shi'a Muslims, has been in "occultation" (hidden by God) since the 9th Century.
I emphatically declare that today's world, more than ever before, longs for just and righteous people with love for all humanity; and above all longs for the perfect righteous human being and the real savior who has been promised to all peoples and who will establish justice, peace and brotherhood on the planet.
O, Almighty God, all men and women are Your creatures and You have ordained their guidance and salvation. Bestow upon humanity that thirsts for justice, the perfect human being promised to all by You, and make us among his followers and among those who strive for his return and his cause.
Bush is a neoconservative, not a dispensationalist. He doesn't want to debate Mahdis vs. Messiahs. He doesn't want to draw comparisons between occultation and the secret Rapture, or the Muslim view of latter day calamities and the Great Tribulation. Bush has no desire to orchestrate end times scenarios. However, Ahmadi-Nejad does. He's a very dangerous man who employs high sounding rhetoric to posture himself as the true champion of human rights against the tyrannical United States, a.k.a., the Great Satan.
While allowing that there is a place for some critical self-evaluation, I reject the idea that American aggression is the primary cause of the rise of radical Islam. Islamism is the consequence of a certain way of looking at the world. Radicalized Muslims are going to interpret world events differently than Christians or humanists.
By arguing this way, I am not making a tautologous argument that radical Islam is the cause of radical Islam. Rather, new ideological factors have been assimilated into the Islamic worldview to radicalize Muslim culture as explained below. Thus, certain historical events have precipitated a negative Muslim reaction. The responsibility for atrocities committed by Muslims lies entirely on the shoulders of those who propagate Islamist ideology.
To date, America is the most benevolent and just nation that has ever existed. It isn't perfect, but its intentions have never been to exploit the poor of the world. This charge originated in the upside-down worldview of international Communism. There is no concord between a belief in America's essential goodness and the belief that she is the Great Satan. (Also, there can be no meaningful dialogue between civilized nations and those who refuse to recognize the sovereignty of Israel.) America is the flagship of Western Civilization, and hence, of Christendom.
Islam as the incarnation of Antichrist, the sum of all heresies, has assimilated fascistic anti-semitism and communistic elements, to become more dangerous than ever. Better than he knows, President Bush has correctly identified our enemies as evil doers.
The libertarians and leftist-liberals who join together to pressure the U.S. to quit Iraq and foreswear interference in Middle East politics think they can stop the speeding trains from colliding. However, the clash of civilizations has already commenced.
The conflict that lies ahead may be the most desperate Christendom has yet faced. The peril is great because we have forgotten--or no longer believe in--who we are.
Sunday, October 22, 2006
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
Europeans are reproducing below the "replacement rate" -- thus the average age of their populations is increasing sharply. If current trends continue, by 2050 one in three Germans and Italians will be over 65 years old. In the United States, only one in five will be so gray.For Christians, these disturbing facts confirm the importance and relevance of the cultural mandate that was originally given to Adam (Gen. 1:22) and again to Noah after the Flood (Gen. 9:7). "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it," is a command that has never been rescinded. We neglect God's good commands at our peril.
As a result, the Europe of the European Union (Steyn disdainfully calls it "Eutopia") faces economic decline and risks systemic change. Steyn writes: "Tax revenues that support the ever growing numbers of the elderly and retired have to be paid by equally growing numbers of the young and working. The design flaw of the radically secularist Eutopia is that it depend on a religious-society birth rate."
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Dennis Prager has written an article about Muslim cab drivers who don't conform to our cultural expectations. Here is an excerpt:
...In Britain and Australia, Muslim taxi drivers refuse to pick up passengers who have a dog with them -- even when the passenger is blind and the dog is a Seeing Eye dog. Nearly all religious Muslims believe that Islam forbids them to come into contact with dogs. Therefore, Muslim taxi drivers will even drive by a blind person standing in the cold, lest they come into contact with the dog.
And in Minneapolis, Minn., Muslim taxi drivers, who make up a significant percentage of taxi drivers in that city, refuse to pick up passengers who have a bottle of wine or other alcoholic beverage with them. This is significant. We are not talking here about Muslim fanatics or Muslim terrorists, but about decent every day Muslims. And what these practices reveal is something virtually unknown in Judeo-Christian societies -- the imposing of one's religious practices on others.
Melanie Phillips, author of Londonistan, has written similarly:
The most grotesque example of all, however, is surely the proposal to build the largest mosque in Europe on the site of the Olympic village in east London. The most prominent landmark on the Olympic site, it is intended to symbolise Islamic power in Britain. Worse still, it is being funded by the Tablighi Jamaat, said by French intelligence and the FBI to be the most significant recruiters for Al Qaeda in Europe.
And to cap it all, within a mile of the site, the largest church in Europe — the Kingsway International Christian Centre — has been compulsorily purchased and is
about to come down. What greater symbol can there be of the retreat of Christianity and its replacement by militant Islam? This is why the argument over the place of the veil and the cross in public life is so significant. This is not about prejudice or discrimination. It is about cultural survival.
Also, if you haven't already read about the prayer calls in Hamtramck, Michigan, you might be surprised at how far Muslims will push to impose their religion on us. It's time that we Americans rediscover our own heritage, reinforce our own identity in law, and oppose the imposition of foreign religions (including secularism) on our land.
Friday, October 13, 2006
Joel Garver left this little gem:
What a great idea!
I suppose one way the US might have prosecuted the war that would have made it easier on Iraqi Christians would have been to use sufficient force to fully occupy Iraq, turning it into a literal colony under US-administered martial law, liberal democracy be damned. After all, if one is going to play the imperial game, one might as well do it “right.” Make of that what you will.
Until I hear a more realistic political alternative than democratizing the Middle East (the neocon strategy) coming from the critics, I'm just not going to take their criticisms seriously. Period.
Good night, and God bless America. ;-)
Thursday, October 12, 2006
Last night over dinner with some dear friends who are also fellow parishioners at St. Luke's I was discussing the status of national Israel in the current dispensation of God's redemptive program, how the whole earth belongs to God's people (the Church) by right while at the same time the land of Israel remains the special inheritance of the Jewish people. In my view the two positions do not conflict but complement each other.
My intention is to avoid the anti-semitism entailed by "replacement theology" by exploring how the Church as a new kind of society that had never existed before--a meta-civilization--can incorporate national Israel as a core (on condition of repentance and acknowledment of the Messiah) as well as any other nation that bends the knee to Christ. Stay tuned for a some thoughts on this important and controversial subject.
The following outline of Hebrews is a work in progress. As I publish studies of the epistle, I intend to update the outline, until all the epistle's arguments and OT references are represented.
As you use the outline, keep in mind that two covenants, Moses and Christ's, are being contrasted throughout. The ultimate covenant that fulfills all promises has been established in and through Jesus Christ. My prayer is that through these studies your appreciation of the inheritance that now belongs to God's people by faith will be substantially enhanced.
First Pericope: The Ultimate Word of God, 1:1-4
- God of the Fathers (a particular people)
- The ultimate revelation in the Son
1. Logos and Wisdom
2. Glory and Image
- Purification and Enthronement
- As an heir who has received his inheritance, he occupies the superior state his title signifies.
First Pericope Continued: The Superiority of the Son over the Angels, 1:5-14
- By his unique title of “Son” (Ps. 2:7; 2 Sam. 7:14)
- The subservience of the angels
1. They are commanded to worship him (Ps. 97:7; Cf. Lk. 2:8-20).
2. They are his ministers (Ps. 104:4; Cf. Gal. 4:1-7 servitude vs. sonship).
- The exaltation of the Son over all things
1. As God (Elohim) he has been ordained to a higher throne (Ps. 45:6ff.)
2. As Lord he is eternal, while all creation (including the angelic beings) is finite (Ps. 102:25-27).
3. To a position of equality with the Father (Ps. 110:1).
- The angels are ministers on behalf of those destined to receive the inheritance
First Exhortation: Do not neglect the great salvation, 2:1-4
- A covenant greater than the old covenant of Sinai.
- The covenant announced (by Christ) and confirmed (by the Apostles)
- The Testimony of God (signs, wonders, miracles, & gifts of the Spirit)
Second Pericope: The Necessity of the Incarnation, 2:5-3:6
- To achieve man's original created purpose (2:5-2:9)
- For solidarity with the redeemed family (2:10-14)
- To receive the inheritance of Sonship (3:1-6)
Second Exhortation: Do not harden your hearts like the Israelites
in the wilderness, 3:7-19
- “Today” (vv. 7,13)
- The “Rest”
- Disobedience and Unbelief
Third Pericope: The Present Reality of the Sabbath-Rest, 4:1-5:10
- The promise of the original Sabbath, 4:1-5
- Joshua unable to achieve it, 4:6-13
- Jesus has entered the rest as High Priest in the Order of Melchizedek, 4:14-5:10
Third Exhortation: Move on to full maturity in the faith, 5:11-6:12
Fourth Pericope: The Order of Melchizedek Contrasted with that of Aaron, 6:13-7:28
- The Foundation of the order: two things that cannot change
1. God’s promise
2. God’s oath
- Abraham’s Tithe
- The oath that effected a new and better priesthood
- The indestructible Life of Christ
Fourth Pericope Continued: A Better Covenant Founded on Better Promises, 8:1-13
Fourth Pericope Continued: The Transcendence of the New Cult, 9:1-10:18
- The Old Sanctuary and its Sacrifice
- The Effectual Sacrifice of the New Covenant
- The Blood and the Life of Obedience
Fourth Exhortation: Enter into the holy sanctuary by virtue of Christ and do not shrink back under threat of persecution, 10:19-39
Fifth Pericope: The Coming of Faith, 11:1-40
- Faith’s fundamental importance
- The Holy City
- The Inheritance Postponed
Fifth Exhortation: Endure to inherit the blessing, 12:1-29
- The Discipline of the Loving Father
- The Heavenly Mount Zion
Final Exhortations, 13:1-21
Closing Remarks, 13:22-25
Thursday, October 05, 2006
Because the heresy of republicanism (the ideology, not the party) is so widespread, we have to wait for the system to break down. We are already seeing this in over-legislation and over-bureaurocratization that inevitably occurs as politicians cater to the arbitrary whims of a populace directed by media hype.
The "charismatic and influential" politician [we] are looking for must truly be a man of accomplishment, virtue and foresight, so that whatever order he establishes will not be immediately undone after his death. He will most likely have been elected to the executive branch.
...the ideal of monarchy is more important than the claims of any royal family. The "cult of blood" has caused many problems in the past, and we need to learn from those mistakes.
God can raise up a new kingly line whenever and wherever he pleases.
In addition to the basic equality that all men have, being created in the image of God, the original kingship of Adam has been restored in Christ. Kingship is a property of the new humanity (the Church), in which every Christian shares. So, a great Christian man that rises to prominence through the grace of God is spiritually qualified to establish a royal house.
If the reader is interested, I recommend Alexander Schmemann's Of Water and the Spirit: A Liturgical Study of Baptism for more about the royal priesthood of God's people.
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
Here are a few combined thoughts (slightly modified) I've written recently over at the Borg Blog and the Jollyblogger:
Yes, I do view the Islamist threat as being at least as serious as the threats posed by the fascist powers and international communism. A significant portion of the Muslim population wants to see Western Civilization (including America) go down.
This Jihad mentality is exacerbated by their embrace of conspiracy theories relating to the “Zionists” and 9-11. A theory of mine is that the conspiratorial view of history is endemic to the Mohammedan heresy. Muslims believe that Jews and Christians corrupted the Holy Scriptures. For instance, they think it was Ishmael, not Isaac, that Abraham attempted to sacrifice.
Islam presents an alternative historical narrative to the Judeo-Christian history that is central to the Western project. This alternative narrative has been adapted by leftists at home and incorporated into their arsenal of multicultural propaganda, which serves to weaken our cultural self-confidence.
...Islamism certainly does not threaten the stability of our own government presently. However, it poses a real threat to Europe’s existence, if demographic and cultural trends continue. Consider all the trouble experienced in France and the riots caused by the cartoons. Look for Sharia law to be implemented in some areas within a decade...
...I agree that the Islamists do not presently pose as significant a military threat as the Nazis and Communists did. However, there are certain things that must not be allowed to happen. The Islamists must not be allowed to control Middle Eastern oil, they must not be allowed to dominate Europe, and they must be prevented–at all costs–from obtaining nuclear weaponry. These are real possibilities that must be guarded against if the U.S. government is indeed committed to protecting America and her allies...
...The Islamists have been carrying on a war against us for about thirty years that we were largely oblivious to because it all happened “over there.” We didn’t take them seriously before 9/11...
...there has been a rise in militant Islam that has corresponded with a cultural encounter with the West from which they were formerly isolated by their life in the desert. This encounter with the West jeapordized the way of life Muslims have always lived. A dramatic rise in wealth (oil money) in Arab hands, enabled the extremists among them to buy weapons which made it possible for a relative few to inflict damage on many. They cannot allow Israel to exist because it spells the end of Muslim hegemony in the region. They will not stop their war against us until they are destroyed and their culture is overwhelmed. They are fighting desperately to prevent the end of their world. Therefore, they are our enemy, and view us, whether secular or Christian, as their bitterest foe.
Stay tuned for more insightful theo-political analysis of our world situation. Good night, and God bless America.
Monday, October 02, 2006
Due to the many allusions to verbal communication throughout the book, many scholars believe Hebrews was adapted from a sermon or series of homilies. See, for example, the following references: 2:5; 5:11; 6:9; 8:1; 9:5; 11:32. William Lane writes:
The writer was clearly a gifted preacher. Hebrews is characterized by a skillful use of alliteration, of oratorical imperatives, of euphonic phrases, of unusual word order calculated to arouse the attention, and of literary devices to enhance rhetorical effectiveness. The alternation between exposition and exhortation characteristic of the literary structure of Hebrews provides an effective vehicle for oral impact. Hebrews was prepared for oral delivery to a specific community…The writer expressly declares in 13:22 that his “word of exhortation” has been reduced to writing.
The first pericope (chapter 1) is concerned with establishing the sublime dignity of Jesus’ Sonship. By contrasting prophecies of Christ with the angels, the author demonstrated that Jesus shared an equality with God that was fully realized (in some sense) at his resurrection-ascension (see Phil. 2:6ff.).
Please consider the following excellent remarks by Bible teacher A.W.Pink:
It is striking to note that these same seven quotations from the Old Testament also furnish proof of the sevenfold glory of the Mediator affirmed in verses 2, 3. There He is spoken of, first as the "Son:" proof of this is supplied in verse 5, by a quotation from the 2nd Psalm. Second, He is denominated the "Heir:" proof of this is given in verse 6, where He is owned as the "Firstborn." Third, it is said in verse 2 that He "made the worlds:" proof of this is given in verse 10 by a quotation from the 104th Psalm. Fourth, He is called "the Brightness of God’s glory:" in verse 9 an Old Testament Scripture is quoted to show that He has been "anointed with the oil of gladness above His fellows." Fifth, He is the "express Image" of God’s person: in verse 8, Scripture is quoted to show that the Father owned Him as "God." Sixth, in verse 3 it is said that He has "purged our sins": in verse 14 we have mention of "the heirs of salvation." Seventh, in verse 3 it is affirmed that He has "sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high"; in verse 13 the 110th Psalm is quoted in proof of this. What an example is this of "proving all things" (1 Thessalonians 5:21), and that, by the Word of God itself!
In this, I think Pink is essentially correct. The first verses of Chapter 1 serve not so much to introduce the entire work, but to set the program for the first doctrinal pericope. The argument is that Jesus received an inheritance higher than that of the angels. It is on the basis of this inheritance, unattainable by any mere man, that we are prepared to apprehend that Jesus is more than human.
But Jesus is also human. The second pericope (2:5-3:6) is concerned with establishing Jesus’ solidarity with his people, the redeemed humanity. Here we find a compelling parallel in the great Kenotic passage, Philippians 2:6-11, where the Son emptied himself of his divine royalty in order to become the humble servant of God at the Incarnation. His humble service involved representing humanity through divinely inflicted suffering and judgment. By passing through this trial, the man Jesus achieved a perfection that was graced by the endowment of divine glory. While Jesus was always fully God and fully man due to the hypostatic union, Scripture teaches it was at his resurrection-ascension that his humanity was glorified, that is, completely and permanently suffused with divine glory.
Hebrews begins with the assertion of Jesus’ divine origin, the high place from which he came. It goes on to describe the true meaning of his descent to the lower earthly regions (Cf. Eph. 4:8-10). This descent presupposes the deity of Jesus when it compares the difference between Moses and Jesus to the difference between the builder of a house and a servant that belongs to it (Heb. 3:3-6). The third doctrinal pericope (4:16-5:10) contrasts the superiority of Jesus’ accomplished deliverance to that of Joshua. Joshua’s accomplishment was only as good as its priestly foundation (the Tabernacle cult). The greater deliverance is rooted in Jesus’ high priestly work (4:14).
The fourth and largest section of the book (6:13-10:18), demonstrates that Jesus’ royal-priestly office and sacrifice are the essence of a new covenant. The establishment of this covenant was guaranteed beforehand by God, being based upon better promises that were confirmed by a divine oath (7:20-22; Ps. 110:4). The inherently efficacious ministry of Jesus Christ actually accomplishes and bestows the blessings of the new covenant that had been prophesied by Jeremiah long ago (10:14-18).
The fifth and final pericope (chapter 11) describes the solidarity of faith that New Testament believers have with the Old Testament saints. However, while the OT saints did not formerly receive the Kingdom under the provisions of the old covenant, they have now been blessed together with us. Hebrews 12:18-24 makes clear that the city sought (but not attained) by the OT saints has been established. It exists. This is the fruit of the royal-priestly work of Jesus, the foundation of the newer and better covenant. The epistle concludes with direction on how to live in light of this already present (through faith) and coming reality.
As we proceed through our study of Hebrews we will ask the following questions of the text: What covenant did Jesus claim to inaugurate? What was the prophetic expectation of this covenant as recorded in the pages of the Old Testament? What events does Hebrews attribute to be the fulfillments of these prophecies?
The questions above flesh out how we are to understand the person and work of the Lord Jesus: Jesus offered a real sacrifice and has been endowed with an actual high priestly office, of a real sacerdotal order, exemplified in the royal priest Melchizedek. He ascended in a real resurrected body to a real place, the heavenly Mount Zion. He sits on a real throne in the midst of all the angels and saints. He actually rules the world authoritatively, politically, providentially, spiritually, and morally as Lord and Christ.
A hermeneutic of covenantal realism expresses the worldview of Hebrews that what happens in heaven has cosmic metaphysical ramifications for the life of the world. Nothing would ever be the same once Jesus came bringing a new covenant, a new commandment, and a new life. There can be no return to the pre-Incarnation phase of history.
Check back to UO to explore together with me how the teaching of Hebrews opens our eyes to the reality of Christ's Kingdom.
Thursday, September 28, 2006
Who is this one antichrist that sums up the work of all the heretics who had come before, be they Legalists, Gnostics or Arians? Be they Montanists with a "new prophecy" or Pneumatamachoi that deny the Holy Spirit? All of these antichrists had the system of their doctrine swept up into the substance of Islam by the antichrist himself, who I have long identified as that raider who came out of the desert to convert the cities and cultures of Middle Eastern Christianity into an extension of the desert, a place of barrenness.
Be sure to read more by Fr. Hart at The Continuum.
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
According to Wikipedia (the authority for everything now), "Fascism is a radical political ideology that combines elements of corporatism, authoritarianism, nationalism, militarism, anti-anarchism, anti-communism and anti-liberalism."
Because Fascism is a historical term that refers to the international threat fought during the Second World War, I think it misleading to use the term Islamo-fascism to refer to the current Islamic menace. I prefer instead to refer to the enemy as Islamism, highlighting the religious aspect of its radicalism.
While authoritarianism, militarism, anti-semitism, and anti-liberalism characterize the enemy we now face, several crucial features are missing that would identify them with the older enemy of half a century ago.
Most importantly, Islamism manifests no nationalistic element. While Islamists oppose the existence of an Israeli state, they do not organize their hopes around the destiny of any particular nation or ethnic group. The absence of a nationalistic cause disqualifies Islamism from being identified as fascistic.
Furthermore, Islamist states (like Iran and Libya) have been known to experiment with both communist and corporatist economic programs. While Hitler and Mussolini hated communism, Islamism does not define itself as the opposition of international communism, which has lost its impetus as a worldwide movement.
Given their current political alliances (formal or informal) with Cuba, North Korea, Venezuala, and the liberal left in western countries, Islamist groups show a willingness to ally themselves with communists or otherwise who opposes America's liberal-capitalist hegemony. At the risk of painting with too broad a brush, the left's nearly unanimous siding with the Palestinians against the Israelis, the presence of Iranian diplomats during North Korea's missiles tests in July, and this month's Cuban meeting of the Non-Aligned powers (led by prominent leftist and Islamist national leaders), all point to a convergence in interests between the two groups. So while naming this phenomenon Islamo-communism would be joining what is ideologically incoherent, the term Axis of Evil is an apt designation.
Concluding, Fascism and Islamism represent different ideologies interested in divergent objectives (e.g., racial purity vs. religious purity). While sharing similar features, they are also dissimilar, being threats that arose for distinct historical reasons. Islamism is therefore a better designation than Islamo-fascism. Islamists are currently alligned with the heirs of the communist legacy, but this alliance appears temporary and pragmatic in motivation, unless one has special apprehension of the spiritual powers that may be at work.
Monday, September 25, 2006
Something else I should mention is that I have been extended the honor of being an official contributor to De Regno Christi, a blog dedicated to discussing the implications of Jesus' rule for the civil power. Be sure to check there frequently for some of the the best Presbyterian thought on the topic. To my knowledge I am the only Anglican monarchist contributing to the blog.
Signing off for now, here is a great quote from a reader of Peter Hitchen's blog:
It has seemed to me for some time that what unites such incongruous allies as Leftists and extremist Muslims is nothing more or less than a common antipathy to Christianity/Judaism. Of course the reasons for this antagonism are completely different in the two camps but they find a shared focus in a hatred of Christian America, and of confidently expressed Christianity in Europe. Interestingly, this incongruous and increasingly powerful alliance can best be characterised as 'Anti-Christ'.
This is exactly my view. Modern liberalism and Islam find common cause because they are both manifestations of the spirit of Antichrist. Their present alliance may even amount to something more significant for the warfare of Christ's Kingdom in the world. Time will tell.
Thursday, July 27, 2006
Friday, July 21, 2006
Because Dr. Hart’s arguments reflect standard objections against establishment of Christianity to be found in Reformed circles today, he deserves a worthy response. I hope the comments below are helpful.
I have made the point that the “sphere” of the family is overseen by both church and state. As an example, I cited the solemnization of marriage performed by Church ministers. I also meant by this the on-going oversight that the church provides such as marriage counseling, arbitration and discipline. Until the sphere sovereignty people grapple with this messy reality, I think their views are more suitable for classroom theorizing than the real world.
The partitioning off of authority to various spheres can get pretty complex, especially on the Dooyeweerdian scheme. Ought decisions having widespread ramification be solely determined by the sphere authority of the “most characteristic modality”? According to Dooyeweerd, there are fifteen different modalities! Who is going to practically arbitrate all this? The only authority capable of making such complex decisions would be an absolute monarch possessing the wisdom of Solomon. Yes, Jesus Christ reigns from above, but I am talking about the practical working out of the system.
Dr. Chellis’ theses 56 & 57 say there are matters entirely secular and entirely holy. However, people are not permitted to assemble anywhere they please. Churches require property for buildings. Cities and surrounding neighborhoods have a say as to what kind of activities may take place in their vicinities. Churches need tax identification numbers to account for revenues. All kinds of laws apply, limiting churches’ activities in real ways.
Whether one favors the complicated Dooyeweerdian system or Kuyper’s three spheres or Kline’s cult/culture distinction, their logical compartmentalization of human life slams against the brick wall of our interconnected social reality.
Dr. Hart points to present practice to argue that ministers act as “agents of the state” in their “civil capacities” when officiating at marriage ceremonies. So, ministers of the Gospel have civil capacities? Or, more likely for Hart, are the ministers acting as private citizens? When doing so, are they wearing their robes of office and conducting ceremonies in sacred houses of worship? Oh, I forgot… there are no sacred places since the Reformation... Perhaps couples may opt to have marriage ceremonies that only appear to be religiously sanctioned.
Some states require religious ceremonies to be separate from civil. In the State of California, the ceremonies are combined. Marriage may not be sacraments per se, but do we want to cede all oversight of marriage to the civil realm? I agree that states have a legal interest in ensuring that marriages are lawfully entered into, but the Church has an interest as well. It’s hard for me to accept Dr. Hart’s qualification that he promotes secular government and not secularism, when he yields all juridical authority over marriage to the state, a purely secular realm in his view.
Dr. Hart made the remark that he has found from his own experience that work environments are more congenial when they are governed by “professional standards” rather than “assumed religious convictions.” However, it should be recognized that modern day professional standards mask utilitarian and scientistic ethical approaches to life. We should also recognize that these standards arose in a particular historical and cultural environment (inherited Christian morality, the Enlightenment and Industrial Revolution). Professional standards are evolving at a rapid pace under the strong influences of our therapeutic culture and multiculturalism, and already hardly resemble their original shape. Unless counteracting measures are taken now, with ethics and institutions that are vigorously informed by biblical morality, the future condition of a thoroughly secular, technologically advanced society will be nightmarish beyond comprehension. (Just a little hyperbole here) Prudence dictates that the Church ought to take some collective measure in the interest of preserving even what we enjoy today.
To set the matter straight, I do not contend that the only legitimate kingdom is the Messianic Kingdom of Christ. Even nations that do not formally recognize the rule of Jesus are “legitimate.” The Roman Church, which views marriage between baptized persons as a sacrament, views other marriages as legitimate in some sense. My brief response is that particular social institutions may be legitimate but irregular. And there are and have been illegitimate states, quite apart from the fact that God is sovereign.
God’s sovereignty does not justify or endorse all particular states that have ever existed. To argue this way appears to smack not a little of hypercalvinism, a sort of fatalistic reliance on God’s sovereignty to justify inaction. God wills to accomplish his purposes through the free actions of men.
Concluding, Dr. Hart claims that a desire to see the rule of Christ more evident is prematurely immanentizing the eschaton, and incompatible with a theology of the cross. I am undisturbed by these objections. The Messianic Kingdom has been fully consummated, but is only veiled to our sight. The resurrection of Christ was a victory in which he was publicly vindicated, accompanied by legally compelling miraculous testimony here on earth. The ministry of the Church is to carry on Christ’s reconciliatory work. The generation that saw the conversion of Constantine had just passed through years of persecution and did not shirk their public responsibility when a Christian order was established (presumably under God’s sovereign control). The Church continues to suffer in all parts of the world, except, notably, where Christians have reached a comfortable accommodation with post-Christendom secularity.
Jesus himself confronted the powers, and Paul was sent to kings (Acts 9:15). The church that retreats to a sacred realm of the spirit is not the Church of the Bible or of history, not to mention that such a retreat is entirely impracticable for life in an embodied world.
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
Please consider the following text, which shall serve as the theme of this post:
The path of the just is as the shining light that shines more and more unto the perfect day.
This verse means much more than that believers experience sanctification in their lives. When considered in light of Rom. 8:18ff., we see that Solomon speaks prophetically of the veiled glory in the saints that will someday be revealed at the regeneration of all creation.
We are surrounded by “a great cloud of witnesses” (Heb. 12:1). All the angels and saints surround us in God’s light, the Shekinah glory, which fills heaven and earth (Isa. 6:3). Someday the elements will melt with fervent heat as God's glory shines through the fabric of the old creation, purifying and renewing, as the old gives way to the new (2 Pet. 3:10-12).
At the still point of destruction
At the center of the fury
All the angels, all the devils
All around us, can't you see?
“The kingdom is among you,” said our Lord to the Pharisees (Lk. 17:21), speaking of the reality of the present kingdom. By this, Jesus did not mean that the kingdom is a moral suasion, or mere faith (which existed in the world prior to the Gospel, and therefore cannot exhaust the content of Jesus’ new proclamation). Jesus was speaking of a spiritual reality that had become inherent, immanent, in the world. And because he was addressing the unbelieving Pharisees, he was not merely referring to a private sanctification process relevant only to his followers.
If Dr. Hart rejects the immanence of the Kingdom, he has rejected a significant aspect of Jesus’ Gospel. This is what I mean by the term “Covenantal Realism” in the title of this post. The Bible everywhere militates against a nominalizing theology that recoils from the objective Reality of the Kingdom. The Kingdom may be hidden, but it is as real as anything that can be apprehended by the senses. Nominalism is nominal religion, “a form of godliness that denies the power thereof.”
If Dr. Hart does not in fact reject the immanent Kingdom, I would challenge him to explain why he feels nations ought not to walk in the light of the New Jerusalem but only according to some stark rule of “eye for an eye” justice, and how an attempt to do so is contrary to the spirit of the New Testament.
Perhaps Dr. Hart does accept an immanent kingdom of sorts, but contends that its reality is strictly limited to the corporate worship of the Church and the subjective sanctification of the elect. Perhaps it is more correct to say he opposes the encroachment of the Kingdom in all non-ecclesiastical spheres of life, the so-called realm of common grace. This is the very definition of secularism, which he says he is not in favor of, but which I cannot avoid thinking his position entails.
All that has been said so far is to prepare you, dear reader, to understand what is at stake when I advocate for a hermeneutic of covenantal realism, as opposed to one that spiritualizes away the content of prophetic expectation.
The rest of the posts in this series entitled "Unpopular Eschatology" will progress along a chain of questioning: What covenant did Jesus claim to inaugurate? What was the prophetic expectation of this covenant as recorded in the pages of the Old and New Testaments? Which events did the New Testament writers attribute as the fulfillment of these prophecies?
The questions above flesh out how we are to understand the person and work of the Lord Jesus: Jesus offered a real sacrifice and has been endowed with an actual high priestly office, of a real sacerdotal order, exemplified in the royal priest Melchizedek. He ascended in a real resurrected body to a real place, the heavenly Mount Zion. He sits on a real throne in the midst of all the angels and saints. He actually rules the world authoritatively, providentially, spiritually, morally, and politically as Lord and Christ.
Covenantal realism expresses the conviction that what happens in heaven has cosmic metaphysical ramifications for the life of the world. Nothing would ever be the same once Jesus came bringing a new covenant, a new commandment, and a new life. There can be no return to the pre-Incarnation phase of history.
Now someone may object that I am being unfair. Don’t all Christians who take the veracity of Scripture seriously believe in these supernatural realities? Well, certainly we believe that miracles did happen a long time ago, that Jesus will come “some day,” and we have belief in the “principalities and powers.” But, dear reader, when was the last time you heard of an exorcism being performed? Isn’t our belief in the supernatural realities largely theoretical? When was the last time, if ever, you thought of the Church's mission to the world (Jn. 20:21) as redemptive, rather than a limited rescue operation to save a chosen few? Hasn't the salt lost its savor?
Again, we talk, talk, talk about faith, how it is the alone instrument of justification. However, faith is much more than knowledge, assent and trust. “Faith has come” (Gal. 3:25), i.e., it is an objective reality. How about hope and love? Do we really understand that Faith, Hope and Love are literal realities in which we “live and move and have our being?”
And then, there’s the New Covenant. What does Scripture say it is? What is its purpose? What does Scripture say it is supposed to accomplish? What are its characteristics?
Finally, there is the present habitation of the Lord Jesus. It’s called the “Jerusalem that is above, our mother.” It’s called New Jerusalem and the Heavenly Mount Zion. Why is it identified by these terms? What is its relation to the earthly Jerusalem and this world in which we live? Why does Scripture describe it as descending out of Heaven?
I am raising all these questions because preoccupation with the "millennium" is a red herring. Whether one thinks Jesus is coming before or after a glorious 1000-year period, or whether one disbelieves in it, the important questions remain unanswered, because unasked: What is the covenantal basis of this so-called millennium? What is the expected covenant God has or is expected to implement? What promises did God make that he has promised to fulfill? Has Scripture indicated that the age of fulfillment has arrived or not?
In this post I have made a brief case for the immanence (presence) of the eschaton, the goal toward which all history is tending. In subsequent posts, I am going to make a case for the progressive nature of the Kingdom’s development in the world.
Thursday, July 06, 2006
It appears that all involved are committed to the notion of distinguishible spheres of sacred and secular, where matters may simply be assigned to either category. Thus, there are discrete matters that belong to secular concern, and others of sacred jurisdiction.
I disagree with this antithesis, and view it as the primary source of confusion over the nature of Christ's authority and what it means for the ordering of civil society.
Dr. Chellis, one of the main contributors at DRC, a ministerial candidate in the RPCNA and trained political scientist, was very kind to leave a comment regarding my initial thoughts about his debate. He has also just written a most excellent summary of his views here. I am honored to hear from Dr. Chellis and look forward to learning much from his participation at DRC.
I'm going to take this opportunity to respond to Dr. Chellis because he raises some important concerns. He writes:
The distinction between secular and sacred is necessary. By using these terms, I am not capitulating to modernism and suggesting a realm in which Christ is not King. Quite to the contrary. Rather, I am simply defending the unique place of the Church in relationship to all other institutions.
It is historically verifiable that the secular/sacred distinction was originally posed by Christians to protect church order from state politics. This arose from the concern that the Church’s freedom to be the Church ought not be compromised by the machinations of temporal powers (i.e., that church polity not become a plaything of the state). This is a real danger, as history attests, and I don’t want to minimize it. But, I think that the solution of apportioning some matters for temporal purposes and others for spiritual ends gives rise to other problems that are characteristic of our era.
The secular/sacred sphere distinction that I am criticizing should not be confused with political dualism like that of the Middle Ages. For instance, in Pope Gelasius I's famous letter to Emperor Anastasius, Duo sunt, the Pontiff articulated a doctrine of different authorities: priest and king. This precept did not divorce the two into separate spheres of jurisdiction, but rather supported the idea that the emperor was answerable to the Church in the person of Peter's successor.
Pope Gelasius may or may not have held St. Augustine's views on the origin and purpose of the state. In his City of God, the great doctor argued that the state belongs to the fallen teleological order of the city of man. I argue that Augustine's view has led to the Lutheran total secularization of the state, and consequently, of society.
I can appreciate that the Church's unique place must be asserted over and against all other institutions. However, I think the secular/sacred distinction as a defense strategy has outlived its usefulness. A better way to keep church and state distinct is to simply define them as different institutions with different functions. What's wrong with that?
May not two institutions have complementary functions for the achievement of the same purpose? (i.e., the conversion, nurture, and discipleship of mankind)
The state is limited ethnically and geographically while the Church transcends such boundaries. The state is concerned with the coordination of resources and human activity to defend and maintain the commonwealth, while the Church is always acting prophetically/sacramentally to orient human society to the eternal reign of Christ. One of the state's functions is to enforce law and execute justice, while the Church brings Redempton to bear, sanctifying human society to the Kingdom of God.
If you prefer a holy/common distinction rather than a secular/sacred this will work as well.
I like this even less, because everything should be holy to the Lord. There is no part of life that should not be blessed and sanctified to serve holy purposes.
As the Prophet Zechariah says,
In that day “HOLINESS TO THE LORD” shall be engraved on the bells of the horses. The pots in the LORD’s house shall be like the bowls before the altar. Yes, every pot in Jerusalem and Judah shall be holiness to the LORD of hosts. Everyone who sacrifices shall come and take them and cook in them. In that day there shall no longer be a Canaanite in the house of the LORD of hosts. (14:20,21)
If we consider Zechariah's prophecy in light of St. Paul's teaching on the sanctification of marriage and households (1 Cor. 7:14), we will see that Zechariah was prophesying about the present Church Age, the New Covenant order. Jews and Gentiles are made one in Christ, unbeliving family members are sanctified, and animals once unclean are now clean (Acts 10:15). The world has been redeemed! There is nothing in principle that does not already belong to Christ and nothing now that may not be claimed as his.
Now I do agree, that the distinction of these things must not be a divorced. Cult gives rise to culture. A very important point.
This is an essential point, and it is ignorance of it that vitiates Meredith Kline's contributions. The living water that nourishes all things flows out of the throne of God.
Yet, to reject the distinction will lead in one of two possible directions. First, the direction of the Papacy in which the Church rules over the civil authority (and all other "common" institutions) or Erastianism in which the state rules over the church.
The goal at the end of time is for the state to disappear & the Church to encompass all things. There will come a time when marriage as well as "dominion, authority, and power" will be abolished (see Matt. 22:30; 1 Cor. 15:24). The Church is Christ’s fullness which is to fill all in all. I don’t see how something like medieval Catholicism can be avoided if the New Covenant has been established. I am not advocating abolishing the family or the state in the present, but sanctifying them by bringing them into the Kingdom, and transforming them.
My theory is that the New Covenant is a universal order, world-wide in scope. This is because the whole world has been purchased by the redemptive work of Christ (2 Cor. 5:19). Even the unclean creation has been purified (Acts 10:14-16). I realize these are controversial claims to make in Reformed circles, but I think we need to distinguish between the redemption of the world (an accomplished and progressive reality) and persons (not all individuals will be saved). Any Reformed thinker who fails to make this distinction has misunderstood the doctrines of grace, in my estimation, misusing predestination to put limits on what God is capable of doing.
If the New Covenant is the present universal administration of God’s Kingdom, then it encompasses Church, nation, and family. In this order of things, all things are holy to the Lord, the Church acting as the legitimizing institution. All particular institutions not blessed by the Church have not achieved the perfection of their purpose, which is to glorify God to the greatest degree possible. When something has been appropriated for holy use, it has been re-oriented to its original created purpose. This is a crucial point Schmemann makes that I'd like to unpack at a later time.
I wish that those Reformed who currently agitate for secularism in non-ecclesiastical matters would also agitate to liberate the family from church oversight. Since the family is a common institution, how is it that ministers of the Gospel lawfully solemnize the marriage covenant? I am unaware of any New Testament license for this practice. Is this not a hold-over from medieval sacerdotalism? Why should the Church be any more involved in family than, say, business matters?
Contrary to such a slippery slope (we have fallen so far), it must be asserted that the New Covenant is a meta-covenant that includes all lesser covenants (like marriage covenants & national covenants) within its scope. Because of Christ’s work, all things are holy and it is the work of the Church of God to work to progressively sanctify the world. As God, in Christ, reconciled the world to himself and entrusted the ministry of reconciliation to the Church (2 Cor. 5:18-21), so it is no contradiction to say that something may be holy and also increasing in holiness. The secularist predestinarians say that nations are already under the dominion of Christ and so somehow kings are not now responsible to “kiss the Son.” But to argue this way, that there needn’t be further dedication of governmental authority to Christ, is to disallow any degrees to sanctification-legitimacy.
A genuine already/not yet eschatology will recognize the total redemption that has taken place. Christ’s redemption does not stop at some arbitrary line we’ve drawn between sacred and secular. There is nothing in principle that does not already belong to Christ and nothing now that may not be claimed as his. It is the Church’s glorious travail to bring the Kingdom to fruition, reconciling the world to God.